A Strange Spring



By Kathy Bergmann, Weston Nurseries Staff

Plants are like people – they are easily fooled by unseasonably warm weather, and we certainly had a lot of that at the end of this last March. It’s hard to believe that Winter isn’t over when the thermometer says 70.
So- the magnolia bloomed along with some of the deciduous azaleas, and the Montauk daisies and roses began to show their leaves as the iris poked its spears out of the ground while we wandered our gardens in shirt sleeves and wondered if it was too early to plant lettuce.

Then Nature slapped us hard, and the magnolia blossoms turned brown. Snow fell, leaves shriveled. When the snow finally melted, aided by very cold rain, I checked to see which of my plants had weathered the unseasonable chill.

Of course we know that spring bulbs live through anything. How wonderful is that first snow drop? Crocus, scilla, and daffodil keep New Englanders sane. You’ll need to wait for Autumn to put them in- put them on your calendar now for next September.

Meanwhile, here are some plants for late Winter/ early Spring that won’t be upset by crazy weather:

Hellebores:  Why is it that more people don’t know about these great shade-loving evergreen plants that bloom February to April? When the snow melts, these burgundy and cream and pink flowers shake themselves off, stand up and keep smiling.

Witchhazel:  Yummy-smelling and lovely in shades of yellow, orange and red. Great for forcing indoors as well. We keep a vase full on our piano in late Winter to remind us that better days are on the way.

Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin): A spicy smelling native shrub with clusters of small yellow flowers, this is the home of the glorious Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. It doesn’t mind wet feet, does well in sun to full shade, and the one in my yard is strong enough to withstand a very near miss by a falling tree.

Cornus Mas, aka Cornelian cherry: a great multi-stemmed tall shrub covered with tiny, bright yellow flowers in March and April, one of the earliest shrubs to flower. It has bright red oval seeds later in the season. Doesn’t mind dry conditions, but it likes part to full sun.

Pussywillow: The large shrub that we loved as kids is so pretty in the early Spring. Try “Tortuosa”, with great twisted stems and branches covered with catkins in the Spring. The shape of those branches makes for interest all year long.

Sage: yes, the kind that you put in stuffing. Soft, almost pettable edible blue-green leaves almost all season long. Chive is a very early riser, as is thyme, and dill, parsley and cilantro self-seed early as well.

Flowering Quince: Find the larger ones if you can. They force inside, but the color is often not as vivid as it is outside.

Forsythia: Yes, I know. But I had to mention it.

Have fun planting for this Spring, no matter how warm or cold the future may be.

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